In today’s high-tech world it is important to be careful what you post on social media. A Fallbrook High School student learned this lesson the hard way last week when he was arrested for making a threatening post on his personal Snapchat feed. The 15-year-old posted a photo of himself holding a firearm at a shooting range and included a caption warning students to stay home from school the next day. Police arrested the teen on suspicion of making criminal threats.
What Are Criminal Threats?
Criminal threats, as defined in California Penal Code 422 PC, occur when:
- You willfully threaten to kill or physically harm another person;
- You communicate this threat verbally, in writing, or electronically;
- You intended that your communication be understood as a threat;
- The threat was clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it was reasonable to take it seriously;
- The threat caused another person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her family; and
- This fear was reasonable given the circumstances.
In San Diego, you can be charged with the crime of making criminal threats even if you aren’t able to follow through. In fact, your intent to actually harm another person is irrelevant. The fact that you make a threat that places another person in reasonable fear is sufficient to warrant criminal charges.
If the Fallbrook High School student is charged with making criminal threats the prosecution will have to establish each element of the crime in order to convict him. This includes proving that the post was made intentionally with the purpose of placing others in a state of fear.
Defending Allegations of Making Criminal Threats
The prosecution is required to establish each element of the offense in order to get a conviction. The student’s San Diego criminal defense attorney will argue any defense, fact, or piece of evidence that makes it difficult for the prosecution to make their case. After reviewing the evidence of this case, the student’s attorney will likely argue that:
- The post was made as a joke, and was not intended to scare others;
- Recipients of the post should have known that it was not a threat;
- The victim’s fear was unreasonable, given the circumstances; and
- The post was not a clear and specific threat.
Penalties for Making Criminal Threats
The crime of making criminal threats is can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in San Diego. The severity of the charges will depend on the specifics of each individual case. Factors that can influence whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony include:
- Harm suffered by the victim;
- The extent and seriousness of the threat;
- The use of a deadly weapon or firearm; and
- Your existing criminal record.
A misdemeanor conviction for making criminal threats carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in a San Diego jail and a fine of $1,000. A felony conviction for making criminal threats carries a maximum sentence of three years in a California state prison and a fine of $10,000.
The sentence for making criminal threats can be extended if you make threats:
- Using a deadly weapon or firearm;
- On multiple occasions;
- Against more than one person; or
- To further another criminal goal.
Hire an Attorney to Reduce the Risk of a Conviction for Making Criminal Threats
You can be charged with the crime of making criminal threats even if you do not intend to follow through and harm someone. It is important to speak with an experienced San Diego criminal threats attorney if you are facing criminal charges. An attorney can help to limit the consequences of your arrest by designing and arguing a persuasive defense. The prosecution must build a strong case against you, and their ability to do this will be limited when they are fought every step of the way. If you need assistance finding an attorney, click here for more information.